Schools of the Ojai Valley

The Ojai Valley used to be California’s best-kept secret. But lately the word’s gotten out, and it’s no wonder, with its miles of hiking trails, quaint Spanish revival downtown, and stop-you-in-your-tracks sunsets, it’s a perfect little slice of rural California that’s quickly disappearing.

Although it’s best known as a tourist destination, it’s also a fantastic place to go to school. Educators have been coming here for decades, in some cases, as far back as the 1800s. The valley’s natural beauty and its proximity to large metropolises like L.A. make it an ideal place to build a school. Folks are often surprised to learn just how many private schools this little valley of 30,000 people actually contains. From infant care to college prep, day to boarding schools, sports to the arts, there’s a lot to choose from in this little mountain town.

Besant Hill

8585 Ojai Santa Paula Rd, Ojai; (805) 646-4343

Grades offered:
9 through 12, and post-graduate year
Founded: 1946
Boarding offered: Yes (approximately 85 percent of student population)

What distinguishes Besant Hill from the other Ojai schools?
At a maximum of 100 students, we offer a rigorous college-prep curriculum with consistent mentorship to holistically develop resilient young adults, eager to continue learning.

What are some of Besant’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
Portrait of a Graduate, Senior Capstones, ePortfolios, expert “Masterclasses” taught by visiting professionals

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered?
Yes, 10 AP courses
Sports offered: Surfing, swimming, tennis, cross country, outdoor education, soccer, basketball, volleyball, yoga, dance, golf, weightlifting, aquatics
Fine and performing arts programs offered: Ceramics, studio arts, digital arts, music, drama

Tell us about Besant Hill’s college counseling program
Over the past few years, our students have averaged over five acceptances per student and enrolled at some of the top colleges and universities around the world (Stanford, Berklee School of Music, St. Andrews). Each student meets with our Director of College Counseling starting as a freshman to develop their college admissions profile. College counseling is an active program at Besant Hill, and as a result, the students have a strong “college-bound culture” on campus.

What’s new at Besant Hill?
In 2020: new ceramics studio, faculty housing, and maintenance buildings; 2021: new digital arts studio computers

Tell us more about Besant Hill
For 75 years, we have been providing an elite education as a small boarding school concentrated on strong academics, arts, and holistic student development. Our faculty is completely committed to the success of every student, and through consistent mentorship they help students realize their maximum potential. Our 520-acre campus in Upper Ojai boasts incredible views, and we also have a rare vernal pool on campus that our science classes love to visit after a few rain showers.

Do you offer summer programs? Not in 2021

Monica Ros School

783 McNell Rd, Ojai; (805) 646-8184

Grades offered: Preschool through 3rd
Founded: 1943

What distinguishes Monica Ros from the other Ojai schools?
Monica Ros School’s mission is to expand a young child’s natural passion for learning in a setting that celebrates Ojai’s natural beauty. What makes Monica Ros so unique is our exclusive focus and emphasis in supporting the intellectual and emotional growth of young children.

What are some of Monica Ros’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
At Monica Ros School, even the youngest students are included in the school’s hallmark programs focused on art, music, and performance. These opportunities are interwoven in the school’s robust academic curriculum.

Sports offered: Just skill-building PE classes and lots of outdoor play for building gross motor skills!

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
The arts are at the very heart of the Monica Ros experience. The school’s founder, Mrs. Monica Ros, said, “To learn with a love of learning, without competition, to take responsibility, to appreciate another’s ability, to cooperate in the enjoyment of the marvelous make-believe of play-acting with costumes and music and dancing, was my wish for all the children to experience.” Today the school continues to prioritize the arts through special classes and performance opportunities for all students.

What’s new at Monica Ros?
We welcome a new Director in the fall of 2021: local beloved educator, Ms. Kate Spiva, will return to where she completed her student teaching many years ago. Current Director, Ms. Susan Hardenbergh is retiring after 15 years of service to the school and the successful completion of a 75th Anniversary Campaign. The Anniversary Campaign raised money for the school’s endowment and the building of a new Art Cottage and Library to be enjoyed by all students and staff.

Tell us more about Monica Ros
Monica Ros School is unique to both the Ojai Valley and most educational experiences offered today. Happy, successful students are the proud legacy of this little school of 75 years!

Do you offer summer programs? Yes, six weeks of Summer Camp annually, open to all young children in the Ojai Valley.

Montessori School of Ojai

806 W Baldwin Rd, Ojai; (805) 649-2525

Grades offered: Infant through 8th
Founded: 1973

What distinguishes Montessori (MSO) from the other Ojai schools?
MSO is the only school in the Ojai Valley to offer Montessori education to students from infants to middle school. Our staff is trained to treat each student as an individual learning at his or her own pace, introduce academic concepts concretely before moving towards abstraction, encourage independence, and educate the “whole child.” Montessori is “education for life;” going beyond academics to create life-long learners.

What are some of MSO’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
A culminating event for MSO students is the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN). Since MSO participates every other year, students make the trip to the UN headquarters in New York in either 7th or 8th grade. During a MMUN year, the class spends the term researching the United Nations, practicing writing position papers and public speaking, and learning about the country they will represent in the spring. Participating in the MMUN is a formative experience the students never forget.

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered? No

Sports offered:
An extensive PE program with a variety of sports: rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, skateboarding, and lacrosse are just the tip of the iceberg.

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
Our academic programs are enriched by weekly visual art, music, and drama instruction. Older students learn music theory and play the guitar and keyboard. Each spring we hold two performances: a music program and a play or musical.

What’s new at MSO?
We added two Flemish giant rabbits to our beautiful 10-acre campus, already home to two sulcata tortoises, a pot-bellied pig, two pygmy goats, two rats, and one pony.

Tell us more about MSO
We have elementary and middle school programs! People often associate Montessori with preschool, but our programs for older students are just as amazing by encouraging students to develop a love of learning, a sense of responsibility for their own education, and practice essential time management skills. Best of all, they do this while following a comprehensive academic curriculum.

Do you offer summer programs?
We offer a three-week Summer Camp that offers more curriculum on different topics. This summer ages 2 to 5 will learn all about dinosaurs, while ages 6 and up will focus on a mixed media art camp.

Oak Grove School

220 W Lomita Ave, Ojai; (805) 646-8236

Grades offered: Preschool through high school
Founded: Oak Grove was founded in 1975 by philosopher J. Krishnamurti. We are one of numerous Krishnamurti schools around the world, including the U.K. and India.
Boarding offered: Oak Grove is primarily a day school. We also have a small, family-style boarding program welcoming international and domestic high school students.

What distinguishes Oak Grove from the other Ojai schools?
The intention of Oak Grove School is to offer a place where the whole community can inquire together into the perennial questions of humankind, and explore an approach to life that is whole, mindful, and intelligent. Oak Grove’s expansive, wooded 150-acre campus provides a rich backdrop for both discovery and quiet. Here, students learn by interacting with the natural world, building on their own knowledge, collaborating with teachers, and developing meaningful relationships. Oak Grove’s mission is to assist students in developing those qualities of mind, heart, and body that will enable them to function with excellence, care, and responsibility in the modern world.

What are some of Oak Grove’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
Parent Education events are led by teachers as well as outside professionals, covering topics like growth mindset, social media wellness, college readiness, inquiry-based dialogue, diversity and equity, sexuality, and more. The program is designed to support parents in raising children and adolescents, emphasizing building relationships and support networks among parents, teachers, and community members.

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered?
We offer honors options in many high school courses. The challenging college-preparatory curriculum is approved by the University of California and is designed to exceed admissions requirements for the most rigorous and selective universities across the country. All Oak Grove High School students select from several fine and performing arts electives that encourage and support the development of an aesthetic sense toward all art forms, as well as integrate and honor individual student interests and passions.

Sports offered:
Oak Grove School is a member of the Condor League, a local league that fields teams each season in a variety of sports including girls’ and boys’ soccer, girls’ and boys’ volleyball, and other team sports such as tennis, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and cross country, according to student interest.

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
Studio art, music, digital design, photography, woodworking, ceramics, theater, and horticulture

Tell us about Oak Grove’s college counseling program
The College Advisor coordinates the college counseling program, working closely with all four of the High School Advisors, the High School Registrar, and the Head of School. Our goal is to fully support students and families through the college selection and application process.

What’s new at Oak Grove?
The “Reflective Classroom” is the latest building added to the campus, serving all members of the community as a place for reflective practices, including dialogue, meditation, journal writing, mindfulness, and silence.

Tell us more about Oak Grove
The Oak Grove School community fosters deep connections and lifelong friendships among everyone who finds a home here.

Do you offer summer programs?
Currently, camps have been put on hold due to the pandemic, however we have offered a Summer Camp program for ages 3 to 18, including five-day backpacking trips, hiking, surfing, sewing, art, photography, Photoshop, and more.

Ojai Valley School 

723 El Paseo Rd (Lower Campus); 10820 Reeves (Upper Campus); (805) 646-1423

Grades offered: Pre-kindergarten to 12th
Founded: 1911

Boarding offered:
Yes, beginning in 3rd grade through high school, with grades 3 to 8 boarding at the Lower Campus, and 9 to 12 at the Upper Campus. Across both campuses, Ojai Valley School will enroll about 275 students in grades PK-12 in the upcoming academic year. Of those, about 75 percent are local day students and about 25 percent are boarding students. In grades 9 to 12, the percentage of day vs. boarding is close to 50/50.

What distinguishes Ojai Valley School (OVS) from the other Ojai schools?
Overall, the community at OVS is student-centered, authentic, outdoorsy, and fun-loving. Our small size, shared traditions, and devoted faculty members foster a welcoming school culture. Without question, the combination of strong academics, unique co-curricular programs, and a warm community distinguishes Ojai Valley School.

What are some of OVS’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
Beyond the academic program, many members of the OVS community consider Outdoor Education to be the school’s hallmark program. Our students learn in the outdoors starting in preschool, and opportunities expand in the upper grades. In middle and high school, experienced outdoor leaders guide hiking, rock climbing, river rafting, and surf trips. Students develop confidence, and a respect for themselves and our environment. They get to explore destinations that include Channel Islands, Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks, and our local Sespe Wilderness. Service and environmental restoration projects are an important part of the program as well. We offer a comprehensive equestrian program which begins in prekindergarten with weekly classes in the barn. Students in grades 4 through 12 may choose to ride in place of other PE or sports programs.

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered?
Yes, our Upper Campus grades 9-12 provides a challenging academic program with 25 honors and AP classes, which are balanced by offerings in fine and performing arts, competitive robotics, outdoor education, and equestrian.

Sports offered: Cross country, equestrian, flag football, girls’ volleyball, golf, swimming, basketball, soccer, baseball, track and field

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
The Arts curriculum is strong and varied. Woodshop and fine and performing arts are taught in the lower grades. At the high school, courses include ceramics, photography, video production, music theory, guitar, dance, and voice. Students on both campuses participate in musical productions, recitals, concerts, and fine arts shows. This fall, the high school will open a new fine arts studio and a new multipurpose room to host music classes and live concerts.

Tell us about OVS’s college counseling program
Our goal with college counseling is to help students find and gain access to the “right fit” schools that are going to fuel their ambitions, sharpen their talents, and shape them into the adults they were meant to become. Our team provides guidance to students and their families starting in the freshman year all the way through senior year. Our recent 21 graduates earned more than 160 acceptances from colleges and universities across the country, from UCLA to Columbia, and their intended majors, from engineering to wildlife ecology, represent their diverse interests and dedication to pursuing their passions.

What’s new at OVS?
Construction is almost complete at the Upper Campus on a $16.5M building project that will replace the dormitory and science 
center destroyed by the Thomas Fire, while adding a two-story Student Commons dining hall and library complex. The 
architecture is stunning with views overlooking the Ojai Valley, 
and the new academic facilities allows us to expand the curriculum. It’s very exciting!

Tell us more about OVS
We are a California Green Ribbon school, and environmental sustainability is important to us. We’ve dramatically reduced our water use, embraced solar technology, improved our energy efficiency, and rebuilt our high school with fire safety as a key architectural component. We teach students to be forward-thinking and these initiatives are one way in which the school strives to lead by example.

Do you offer summer programs?
Yes! We have fabulous summer programs for K-12 students. 
Our academic and specialty camps are open to resident 
and day campers. We offer a Junior Camp for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, and our specialty camps focus on robotics, equestrian, and fine and performing arts. The OVS 
pool is the best place to cool off in the summer months! 
Learn more at

The Thacher School

5025 Thacher Rd, Ojai; (805) 646-4377

Grades offered: 9 to 12
Founded: 1889
Boarding offered: Yes, 93 percent of students board.

What distinguishes The Thacher School from the other Ojai schools?
At Thacher, students encounter a combination they won’t 
find anywhere else: demanding academics; tough, character-building challenges; and a healthy, authentic community 
culture that supports them every step of the way. It’s how 
Thacher succeeds in shaping resilient, compassionate, and ambitious young people prepared to take on the challenges 
of today’s world.

What are some of Thacher’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
Thacher’s signature programs are designed for students who 
dare to demand something extra from their high school experience and are willing to show up, take the risks, and put in the work to make that happen. Our Horse and Outdoor Programs recognize 
the profound value of lessons learned outside the classroom, whether it’s learning to care for and work with a 2,000-pound creature or navigating a High Sierra pass in the company of friends. Our academics capitalize on similar learning-by-doing approaches, which can include collaborating with university professors on astronomical research in our observatory, applying the study of biology to furthering the conservation goals via our partnership with the nearby Turtle Conservancy, exploring the 
nexus of ethics and activism in our Global Studies program, or making our campus more sustainable through hands-on work 
with hogs, chickens, and bees. Our emphasis is on presenting students with thoughtfully designed and well-supported opportunities that encourage productive risks leading to 
growth and fulfillment in school and life to come.

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered?
After offering AP classes for many years, Thacher concluded that the only way to implement enriching academic experiences that serve our students best was to move beyond the APs. This evolution freed our faculty to focus more on deeply engaging project- and problem-based learning that places students at the center of their education, offers them more voice and choice in their learning paths, and can better prepare them for roles in a diverse and changing world. All of our advanced level courses have been approved by the University of California for weighted credits.

Sports offered:
Baseball, basketball (boys’ and girls’), cross country (girls’ and boys’), equestrian, fitness, football, lacrosse (girls’ and boys’), rock climbing, soccer (boys’ and girls’), tennis (girls’ and boys’), track and field, volleyball (girls’), western riding

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
Visual arts: ceramics, film and digital photography, wood design and fabrication, and studio arts. Performing arts: drama, dance, music, chamber singers, string ensemble, jazz combo, and jazz ensemble.

Tell us about Thacher’s college counseling program
Our College Counseling team considers the needs, strengths, and opportunities for the growth of every student as they support them and serve as their advocates. They also regularly fine-tune the counseling strategy as national trends in college admissions shift year to year. And while the hope is that students will gain admission to a top-choice college, the overarching goal is to help them take this major step with calm and optimism about their own ability to make the most of their options.

What’s new at Thacher?
The GATES, our new academic building for arts, technology, engineering, and science, opened in spring 2021. This space is the center for multi-disciplinary creativity, exploration, and learning, complete with collaborative spaces, labs, and maker spaces that support project-based, applied learning opportunities.

Tell us more about Thacher
The Thacher School is anything but typical. Everything we do here is guided by a set of deeply held convictions that add up to the simple truth that high school can and should be a thrilling adventure.

Do you offer summer programs?
Not on campus, however, we do offer cultural immersion international travel opportunities through our Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics and Global Citizenship.

Villanova Preparatory School

12096 N Ventura Ave, Ojai; (805) 646-1464

Grades offered: 9 to 12
Founded: 1924
Boarding offered: We offer both boarding and day; 33 percent boarding, 66 percent day.

What distinguishes Villanova from the other Ojai schools?
We are the only school in Ojai to offer the IB Diploma Program, the only Christian high school in Ojai, and we offer a unique international experience with students from 17 different countries across 5 continents.

What are some of Villanova’s hallmark programs and/or classes?
Our Clare Boothe Luce program, an endowment given to Villanova by late congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce, provides research opportunities and scholarships to young women interested in STEM careers, a coding and robotics class, and our Campus Ministry program that helps students get in-touch with the spiritual side of themselves.

Are advanced placement, IB, or similar accelerated classes offered?
IB Diploma Program

Sports offered:
Football, water polo, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, golf, swimming, tennis, track and field

Fine and performing arts programs offered:
Graphic design, art of theater, painting, ceramics, art in Western culture, photography, film production, guitar ensemble, instrumental ensemble, IB music, ukulele ensemble, digital music creation and recording arts, publications, IB visual arts

Tell us about Villanova’s college counseling program
Villanova takes a holistic approach to college counseling, looking at the four-year journey. We employ three full-time counsellors for 200 students. Ms. Jessica Benson works with the freshmen and sophomores to plan their high school journey and help them choose the right classes. Mrs. Ayesha King is head of college counseling and works with the juniors and seniors to help them navigate the discovery and application process. Ms. Amy Richardson works with all international students and guides them in matriculating into the U.S. university system.

What’s new at Villanova?
New after-school activities program begin next year. Students must earn a certain number of credits in extracurriculars to graduate. Options include sports teams, clubs, community service, intramurals, and much more. New Art Center (2018), new Coding and Robotics Class (2019)

Tell us more about Villanova
On a beautiful 131-acre campus, Villanova Preparatory School is the premier coed Catholic boarding school on the West Coast. Founded in 1924 by the Augustinian Fathers, its mission is to graduate mature young adults of diverse backgrounds who reflect the core values of Truth, Unity, and Love. Villanova Prep is highly regarded for its academic excellence in the International Baccalaureate program, it’s international culture with a student body made up of 17 different countries, and its formation of students in the Christian values of Jesus Christ. The school develops the mind, body, and heart of its students in a safe and supportive environment, with a 7:1 student to teacher ratio, and offers an enriching variety of extracurricular activities and sports programs as well as a vibrant art scene. Students go on to matriculate into the best U.S. Universities and Colleges, but always have a home at Villanova Prep.

Do you offer summer programs?
We are offering sports day camps this summer in soccer, baseball, basketball, and volleyball. We are launching an overnight camp for the summer of 2022.